Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet by Jenifer Ringer

Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet
by Jenifer Ringer
Release Date: February 24, 2015
2015 Penguin (reprint edition)
Ebook Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0143127024
Genre: Nonfiction /Autobiography
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Raised in South Carolina, Ringer led a typical kid’s life until she sat in on a friend’s ballet class, an experience that would change her life forever. By the age of twelve she was enrolled at the elite Washington School of Ballet and soon moved to the School of American Ballet. At sixteen she was a professional dancer at the New York City Ballet in Manhattan, home of the legendary George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Ringer takes us inside the dancer’s world, detailing a typical day, performance preparation, and the extraordinary pressures that these athletes face. Ringer shares exhilarating stories of starring in Balanchine productions, working with the famous Peter Martins, and of meeting her husband and falling in love at the New York City Ballet. Ringer also talks candidly of Alistair Macauley’s stinging critique of her weight in his 2010 New York Times review of The Nutcracker that ignited a public dialogue about ballet and weight. She unflinchingly describes her personal struggles with eating disorders and body image, and shares how her faith helped her to heal and triumph over these challenges.

My Thoughts
Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet is one of those books over which I was quite excited when I first received it as I love the ballet and was somewhat familiar with Jenifer Ringer's battle with her weight.  However, I was a bit disappointed by a large portion of this book as I felt that the book jumped from topic to topic as though trying to avoid some disagreeable moments rather than getting to the heart of the ballet world and all of its real moments and the real relationships between Jenifer and the rest of the New York City Ballet members.  

One of the things over which I was surprised was the Christian side to this memoir.  Although I have nothing against faith and inspiration, I was a bit thrown off by the preachy nature of the tone the book took with regards to Christianity and faith, although I don't believe that's the intention in this book.  Jenifer obviously was inspired by her faith to become a healthier person and that is fantastic; it's just a bit frustrating for the reader to read through the moral tone that comes across in her book.  

I definitely enjoyed learning about Jenifer's earlier days and her meteoric rise through her ballet schools to eventually join NYC Ballet at the age of sixteen.  To be honest, she almost makes it seem too easy, as if anyone could do it, and I definitely doubt that is the case.  She becomes an apprentice at the age of sixteen, joins permanently with the company a short time later, becomes soloist, and after a year off due to weight issues, is welcomed back with almost seemingly open arms.  I honestly don't believe it was that easy.  And while Jenifer does mention some of the grueling schedules and some of the aches and pains, such as learning how to ice her feet at night, she rarely mentions injuries or other aches and pains and the toll this takes on her body.  Only in vague passing references do we learn about previous injuries that had sidelined her years ago although they weren't really mentioned in her book.  I wanted the grittier read to the world of ballet, to learn more about what it was like to be a ballet dancer day in and day out, and not the glossed over version of that world.  I do appreciate her honesty when it came to her struggles with her weight and it was fascinating to read about what happened after the critique came out.  I would have liked to have learned more about what the dancers thought about the issue as well, though, and she never really mentioned if anything changed with regards to weight issues at the company after that.  I also thought the commentary about falling onstage, forgetting one's choreography, daily preparations, and her openness about choreographers was quite fascinating and frankly, I wanted more!!

Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet definitely had some interesting moments and I was fascinated by the minute details of the ballet world.  I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day preparations and her rise to soloist at such a young age.  I also appreciated Jenifer's candor when it came to discussing her breakdown due to her problems with body image and eating disorders; as a mother of a competitive athlete, it certainly gives you a lot to think about.  It felt quite easy to relate to Jenifer and the stresses she had in her life; those of a young athlete, working professional, wife, and mother.  I wasn't crazy however, about the preachy tone in the novel as it felt somewhat forced and I thought the book finished a bit abruptly as well.  Overall, I think that anyone who likes ballet will probably enjoy this book.


  1. A good review- it feels like it would be a niche kind of book.

    1. Thanks. I enjoyed the book, but I wish she had shared more of her thoughts about what she really felt at the beginning, rather than just sharing the daily routines. I think the reader would relate a bit more. Her interviews are so much more relatable and fascinating.